Un Ballo In Maschera

Posted on: 13 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Love, revenge, death and the inevitability of fate are the elements that fuel the drama in Verdi’s much loved opera Un Ballo In Maschera according to Laurence Green.

Love, revenge, death and the inevitability of fate are the elements that fuel the drama in Verdi’s much loved opera Un Ballo In Maschera which is revived in a splendid production directed by Mario Martone at the Royal Opera House.

The story is set in Boston in the middle of the 19th century and centres on the illicit but chaste love of the popular governor for the wife of his loyal henchman who is forced to betray the man who is enamoured of her by her politician husband.  The climax at the masked ball of the title which ends in an assassination is a potent mix of high emotion, tense drama and coup de théâtre.

Director Mario Martone and set designer Sergio Tramonti bring all their flair from film into the theatre, capturing all the glamour and historical flavour of its 19th century setting and all the richness of melody and emotion of Verdi’s great work.  Indeed in his music here Verdi beautifully moulds the play of light and shade for which the work is famous. 

The lightness emerges especially in the piece’s dazzling choral ensembles, notably those that end the first two scenes, though which, nevertheless, run sinister undercurrents.  Maurizio Benini’s conducting has implacable momentum and passion, negotiating the swift mood changes and contrasts of mellowness and drama with great skill.

On the evening I attended Ramon Vargàs was indisposed but the role of the governor was more than competently filled by Italian tenor Roberto Aronica and indeed he proved a sensation, bringing both power and passion to the work, accompanied by a richly textured voice, full of emotion and longing.  Dalibor Jenis as the betrayed husband out for revenge and Angela Marambio as the woman at the centre of this ill fated love triangle also bring strong vocal and acting abilities to their roles, while Elena Manistina gives an impressive performance as a fortune teller who sees portents of the disaster to come and brings a frisson of the supernatural to the drama.

Furthermore this is a visually eye opening production, not only in the period furniture and clothes which create the right atmosphere but in the stunning climax at the masked ball where two large inverted rectangular mirrors give a trompe l’oeil effect of expansiveness and plunge us right into the heart of the action so that we become participants rather than mere spectators.
In short an evening of pure bliss!

When: Plays until 18th July 2009.

Box Office: 020 7304 4000.

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